Friday, April 14, 2017

Keeping up appearances

Thank you, Neil, for your observations under the previous chapter.  Yes, it was a thoroughly satisfactory and extremely happy trip to Towcester with Delatite yesterday.  He ran a lovely, very genuine race to finish second behind what seems a very nice horse, so that's very promising.  He was very well ridden by Harry Cobden - and I ought to point out, lest anyone think that Harry was taking an unnecessarily wide course, that he rode absolutely to instructions.  Inevitably, after a prolonged dry period, the ground was not to everyone's liking at Towcester yesterday. and that's even with all those who came being people who had declared their horses in the expectation of dry conditions.

The ground had been watered; and the most extensively watered parts down the hill, where it was obviously most important not to have it too dry, were indeed not at all firm.  Going up the hill, though, it had (understandably) been watered less.  And, while the bulk of the area was good enough, there were very bare patches which had taken the bulk of the hammering through the winter months, and these parts were worryingly firm.  It was on account of these areas, I presume, that the non-runner in our race, who had travelled to the racecourse and was initially declared there, was withdrawn.

However, having walked quite a lot of the circuit, I felt that we would be racing on nice ground throughout if we kept wide.  The outer sections on the course had plenty of grass on them (for obvious reasons, having had much less traffic on them through the winter) and it made sense to keep to them.  On the downhill, well-watered sections, the inside was getting a bit cut up and softer on the day; and on the uphill sections the inside half of the track contained the bare, firm bits.  Out wide, though, we had just nice ground all the way.  And, while in one sense one wants to find the firmest bits as they are often the fastest, that plan backfires if the horse is not comfortable racing on them and so won't stretch out properly.

It's a big circuit at Towcester, and the horses only turn 360 degrees in a two-mile race.  So racing wide along the straight stretches and tacking in on the bends so one was merely racing on the outside of the small field clearly seemed the way to go.  One only gives away minimal extra ground doing that, and the horse races on nice ground on which he will be both comfortable and safe throughout.  Harry Cobden carried out the instructions to the letter, rode the horse perfectly, and the combination ran a lovely race.  All in all, it was a pleasure to watch.

As was the very good Good Friday racing today on At The Races from Lingfield, Newcastle and Bath.  Excellent prize money, and good fields as a result.  The firm ground at Bath obviously put plenty of people off, but the racing was still very interesting there too, even so.  I haven't looked at Sunday's cards at Southwell, but I'm sure that they will be less interesting, both because the races take place on Southwell's off-putting Fibresand surface and because the prize money, I read in my Racing Post, is poor, which fact, like the surface, will have put plenty of people off running there.  William Haggas, I think that it was, pointed out that such low levels of prize money on a Sunday are particularly disappointing as the costs of running a horse on a Sunday, for obvious reasons, can be significantly higher than usual, as they can also be on Saturday evenings too.

That's just common sense, and was recognised when the Sunday racing programme was first instituted, with these increased costs being offset by the appearance money scheme which meant that every runner on a Sunday picked up £250 (80%, ie £200, of which goes to the owner, with 8% to the trainer and 6% each to the jockey and stable staff pool).  Inevitably that has been cut back (by 60%).  Good Friday became a sacred cow as regards racing fixtures, and the deal for holding fixtures on that day was that the prize money had to be excellent; but Sundays, for no very good reason, are not treated the same way.

But, really, for anyone running or working in a stable, racing on a Saturday evening (as we shall be doing tomorrow with So Much Water at Brighton, a trip I'm very much looking forward to as it gives Roy's extremely lightly-raced half-sister an opportunity to start making up for lost time) or on a Sunday is far more of an inconvenience than racing on a Friday, Good or otherwise.  This week has seen a general discussion about prize money levels on days which might for normal people be considered 'days off', but it might be an idea for our overlords to re-examine the appearance money situation in tandem with any prize money review which might be taking place.

1 comment:

neil kearns said...

thought john egan gave her a beautiful educational ride and what a good looking horse pity she is not a wee bit quicker that said that was a fairly reasonable maiden for the track presume you will be going further in future ? again a nice run